CIA WikiLeaks Hacker Sentenced To 40 Years For Espionage And Child Pornography | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


A former CIA programmer was sentenced on Thursday to 40 years in prison on espionage and child pornography charges, after his conviction for what prosecutors called the largest data breach in CIA history when he handed a trove of documents to WikiLeaks, and after FBI agents found a trove of “disturbing and horrific” images and videos of child pornography on his computer.

Key Facts

Joshua Adam Schulte, a former computer programmer who worked on CIA designs for sensitive hacking tools, was sentenced by federal District Court Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan on charges of computer hacking, contempt of court, espionage, false statements and child pornography.

Schulte was convicted in July 2022 on nine counts of gathering and transferring national defense information, for handing over sensitive CIA documents to WikiLeaks in 2017 as part of the outlet’s “Vault 7” leak, which prosecutors in the case bemoaned as “one of the most brazen and damages acts of espionage in American history.”

He was convicted again last September on three counts of receiving, possessing and transporting child pornography, after roughly 3,400 videos and photos of child pornography were found on his computer.

Schulte also faces a lifetime of supervised release.

Key Background

Schulte’s conviction stems from an event in 2016 when the former CIA staffer logged into an administrative session to “execute a series of cyber-maneuvers” on the CIA’s internal network, stealing a trove of archives and reverting the network in a bid to cover his tracks, according to the DOJ. Schulte then sent those documents to WikiLeaks from his home computer before wiping and reformatting the internal hard drive on his computer. The files were published between March and November 2017, known as the “Vault 7” and “Vault 8” leaks, a release of documents that the DOJ said “profoundly damaged the CIA’s ability to collect foreign intelligence against America’s adversaries,” and put CIA personnel and programs at risk, costing the agency hundreds of millions of dollars. FBI agents carried out a search of Schulte’s New York apartment in 2017, where they found “layers of encryption hiding tens of thousands of videos and images of child sexual abuse materials,” including roughly 3,400 videos and images of “disturbing and horrific child pornography.” According to prosecutors, Schulte collected a stockpile of child pornography videos from the dark web and from Russian websites, with some videos showing the abuse and rape of young children. Schulte then staged what he called an “information war” against the federal government, writing in a journal obtained by the DOJ that he hoped to break up “diplomatic relations, close embassies” and “end U.S. occupation around the world.” Schulte was found guilty in March 2020 of contempt of court and making false statements, and was convicted in July 2022 on nine additional counts, including illegal gathering and transmitting of national defense information and unauthorized access to a computer to obtain classified information.

Further Reading

Former CIA Staffer Convicted For Massive Data Breach To WikiLeaks (Forbes)

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